So many South Africans have thought about taking the leap and emigrating to Australia? But what is it really like? In today’s The Honest Expat interview I ask Lynn, a South African who emigrated to Brisbane in 2013 to tell us the truth…
Where are you originally from? Born and bred in Cape Town
Where did you emigrate to? Brisbane, Australia
When did you emigrate (year)? 2013
What was the catalyst/s for your emigration decision?
Our main reason for emigration was for better financial opportunities which would then allow us to give our son better opportunities.
How long had you thought through the emigration process?
It had been an option for a few years, but certainly not at the top of priorities or options for us. Then in the July 2013 while we were watching Wimbledon we had a serious talk and a month later my husband was in Australia looking at the possibilities of getting a job.
How easy/ complicated was the application process to emigrate and how long did it take? Did it require certain qualifications/ documentation/ finances etc?
We were extremely lucky and within a month hubby was offered a position with a sponsorship from the company which allowed our family to move over. It took 3 months for the visa to be approved and if I remember correctly it cost R40 000 just for the visa. One of the requirements was either a qualification in the industry or a certain amount of years working in the industry. Hubby had 20+ years experience so was fortunate to tick that requirement. There was a lot of documentation needed, but nothing that was out of the original. So, birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, bank statements, proof of English, Matric certificate/uni results. We then all needed to have full medicals and chest X-rays. Tristan and I stayed in Cape Town to sell everything and pack up and for Tristan to complete the school year.
What was your first year like after emigrating?
It was a really difficult year as 9 days after Tristan and I arrived after selling our house, cars and packing up everything the company told Shawn they were closing the branch that he was employed at! ? A lot of my family had been hesitant and questioned our decision to come over so we never even told them what had happened. We only had 3 months to find a new sponsor otherwise we were to be out the country within 30 days. This was such a stressful period. Luckily at the last minute Shawn was offered a position and we could breathe again! I didn’t want to communicate much with the family back home as I didn’t want to lie to them. So tried keeping communication to a limit which is soooo hard when you a close family and miss them terribly. Tristan had a great year at school and I made 2 really lovely friends. I did as much at the school that I could so that I could meet people and learn the Australian schooling system.
What have you loved about your new home – for you and your children? (the positives of emigrating)
We are living in a great area/community and are able to give Tristan so much more than we would ever have been able to back home. I work 32 hours and have 4 afternoons off which allows me to take Tristan to all his sporting commitments. He walks home with his friends and sometimes alone (only 800m) from school which is not something I would ever have thought of allowing in Cape Town. When hubby is at work at night I will still have the front door open until late at night and not be afraid. I have in fact gone out a couple of times and left the front door open by mistake ? For us the move has definitely the right move especially from a financial point of view.
What have you found hard about your new home – for you and your children? (the negatives of emigrating)
The Australian people are not nearly as welcoming as South Africans. Even though you make friends, socialising on a regular basis is not something they seem to do. They don’t seem to invite you in for a cuppa and a chat! Which is something I really miss. Another thing is not having help with the housework and garden unless you pay a fortune!
What have you NOT missed about South Africa – for you and your children? (the positives of emigrating)
The crime is something I certainly don’t miss. Being at home with the doors open and going for walks without looking over your shoulder all the time. A while ago I was looking at a South African friends pictures on Facebook and Tristan pointed to “bars on the windows” and asked me what is that? The facilities for children in regards to parks is amazing. The majority have sun protection over them and in excellent condition.
What have you missed about South Africa – for you and your children? (the negatives of emigrating).
Family!! Definitely the family. It is so hard not having your family living close by! Those special occasions like birthdays, Christmas etc just don’t feel special anymore. I have missed 3 family weddings and a funeral which was pretty heartbreaking.
Knowing what you know now – would you emigrate again? To the same place or to a different place?
I would certainly do it again, but would possibly choose Perth instead of Brisbane as it makes it much closer to SA.
If you could, would you return to South Africa? What would make you consider returning to South Africa?
I would only return for holidays
What makes it hard to return to South Africa – for you and your children?
We have been home once since we left which was great, but the saying goodbyes again never gets easier. Being so far from Cape Town makes it long and expensive to return home.
What were the unexpected (good and bad) aspects of emigrating that you’d wished you’d known about before going. Do you have any advice for those contemplating making this huge move for their families?
Something that was very strange to us was that sport was not included at junior schools. So everything is done after school at clubs. If both parents are working full time this limits the time you have to take the children to activities. Another thing that still boggles my mind is the cost of childcare! I am so grateful we only came over when Tristan was at school. If you are not entitled to any benefits (it takes a lot of visa’s until you get permanent residency), the full fees can be up to $110 per day per child! So this is something to bear in mind! Different states have different rules and policies. In Queensland at this stage (I do believe it will be changing) when we arrived on a working visa, we were very fortunate to be enrolment at a great state school and pay no fees! Budgeting is a lot easier as both hubby and I get paid weekly which is very common! The public transport is very efficient making it easy to get to the city if necessary.
Thanks Lynn for sharing your story and advice. So valuable to hear from those who have gone before.
If you enjoyed this interview with a South African expat be sure to read the other interviews with South African expats in The Honest Expat series.
If you are (or have been) a South African expat and are prepared to share your story please drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org